I often wonder if people who lived 100 years ago had the same orthopedic problems that we see every day in our clinic. These were people who pushed, pulled, reached, squatted, lifted, and twisted throughout many days. Although it was hard work, I bet they did better than people do today. It seems backwards to me that with all of our modern conveniences, low back pain seems to be more prevalent.
The total cost of back pain to the American economy – including treatment, employer expenses, and loss of wages – is in the tens to hundreds of billions, depending on the reporting agency, while the average cost to the back pain sufferer is more than $2,000 per year!
We have fancy chairs, back braces, and specialized supports to prevent problems. When we do have pain, we have tape, needles, stimulators, massagers, stretches, classes, therapies, modalities, decompression devices, people who give adjustments because we are "out of alignment", and a million other treatments ready to "cure" our problems. In chronic and severe cases, we have pills, implants, biofeedback, and surgeries to improve our symptoms. Do any of these actually address the cause of our problems?
What are we doing in today's society that is making this problem become an epidemic?
I feel that being still is a huge part of the problem! Humans are becoming more and more "still" during the day. Increases in computer work and/or stationary standing jobs are really harming people. The human body was meant to move! The body is this beautifully designed asymmetrical creation that encourages us to shift, rotate, pump, and move by turning chains of muscles on and off. It is designed to use muscles and joints, in a balanced way, to complete daily tasks.
We have all heard the adage "If you don't use it, you lose it!" This couldn't be more true! People become very frustrated because they want to run and play. They have relatively "still" jobs all day. They then try to overcome hours of relative sedentary work with a good run outside. When these activities hurt them, often times people will either bulldoze through the pain or they stop doing activities altogether. Both of these approaches can be frustrating and detrimental!
Most of the people that I see each day cannot fully squat! In fact, they often AVOID squatting. Back pain, knee pain, hip pain, and balance issues keep people from going through this essential functional movement. Most people cannot turn off chains of muscles that keep us in patterns and positions that hurt us. They organize themselves better on one side of the body compared with the other, and they double down on those positions. People often lack the resiliency and versatility to get into and out of positions. The result is a person overworking muscles, ligaments, discs, etc. It also results in them not breathing well, sleeping well, digesting well, and healing well. Unfortunately, this cycle perpetuates.
Can you do this?